So Minnesota: Boxing legend Harris ‘The Black Pearl’ Martin
Long before Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson, there was a Minnesota boxer who made his mark on the sport.
Minnesota boxing historian Jake Wegner knows the amazing life story of Harris “The Black Pearl” Martin.
“I think he was the first African American superstar of the sport, not just in Minnesota but the entire Midwest,” Wegner said.
While working as a waiter at a Minneapolis hotel, Martin’s boxing talent was discovered by his boss. In the ring, Martin gained a reputation as a boxer who punched with sledgehammer action and became known as “The Black Pearl.”
“The average white male was making for an annual income around $400 a year in the mid-1880s; he was making that sometimes in one fight alone,” Wegner said.
Outside the ring, Martin lived a fast life and retired after a 15-year boxing career.
“He won what was called the colored middleweight championship of the world,” Wegner said.
Martin died in 1903 at the age of 38. His funeral was a huge event in the Twin Cities.